Francis Calder Background
Early life and Navy Career
Francis Anderson Calder was one of Belfast’s most admired and respected citizens in the Victorian era though he was actually born in Edinburgh.
He was born on 6th May 1787 to Alexander Caldwell and Barbara Gray, the daughter of a lawyer. Francis joined the Navy in 1803 and served during the Napoleonic Wars.
Calder’s Retirement to Belfast
On retiring from active service Calder came to live in Belfast. He joined the Belfast Charitable Society and taught in their Sunday School. He also worked for the Sunday School Society of Ireland.
Francis Calder campaigned for the abolition of slavery and was Secretary of the Belfast Anti-Slavery Society. He almost certainly worked alongside Mary Ann McCracken in these endeavours.
Support for Animal Welfare
Mistreatment of Animals
Calder’s compassionate nature was demonstrated by his love for animals. He was becoming increasingly concerned about the poor conditions in which animals worked and lived in Belfast’s rapidly industrialised society. The prevalence of pastimes such as bear-baiting and cock-fighting filled him with despair.
Belfast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Calder was one of the founding fathers of the Belfast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1836. The Belfast Society is the second oldest animal welfare charity in the world. In later years the Society’s success and expansion led to it being renamed the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Society’s first aim was to get the act of Parliament ‘relating to the cruel and improper treatment of animals’ extended to Ireland. In this they were successful. As Secretary to the Society for twenty years, Calder worked tirelessly to improve circumstances for animals. Through his efforts he ensured that water-troughs for horses and cows were built in Belfast city.
By the time of his death ten such amenities had been erected, followed by many more and the practice extended to cities throughout Ireland.
The Calder Fountain
Francis Calder’s Death
Francis Calder died in November 1855 aged 68 years. He is buried in the Shankill Burying Ground. A portrait of Francis Anderson Calder is held by the Ulster Museum.
The Calder Fountain Memorial
A memorial to his hard work in improving animal welfare, the Calder Fountain, stands on the south side of Customs House Square. It was designed by George Smith, Belfast Harbour Commissioners Chief Engineer. It is composed of sandstone in a Georgian style and topped with a single cast-iron gas lamp.
The memorial is inscribed as follows –
Erected by Public Subscriptions As a memorial to the labours of Francis Anderson Calder, Commander R.N. In the cause of humanity, and to whom is mainly attributed the erection, between the years 1843 and 1855, of ten water-troughs for the use of cattle in Belfast. A righteous man regarded the life of his beast ….Founder of the Belfast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and for twenty years its active Honorary Secretary. Blessed are the merciful. A.D. 1859Inscription on Calder Fountain, Custom House Square
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